Monday, 11 November 2013

Now Playing: Startopia

Startopia is a Theme Park style game set on a series of alien space stations. Your basic goal is to build up a thriving and functional station from scratch, recruiting staff and catering to the needs of your visitors. Five tutorials introduce you to the basics, and then ten increasingly more elaborate and challenging single missions take you through all of the various features within a story orientated context.

These single shot missions each deal with one core feature of station management. So for example, one mission deals with constructing a medical facility, another a criminal detention and rehabilitation station, and another a thriving trade outpost. As you progress through these missions you gain access to all three decks of the station, and by the very end will be capable of managing all three simultaneously. These initial missions lead quite nicely into the customisable sandbox mode, where you can tailor your experience and victory conditions as you please.

There’s a lot going on, especially when you’re keeping a watchful eye on all three decks, and things can certainly get a bit hectic as your station grows, with residents and visitors to keep track of, trade deals to make, and the threat of spies and saboteurs to contend with. But everything is kept quite simple with a sparse and intuitive UI, and plenty of helpful tool-tips and icons suggesting where you need to focus your attention.

The game looks great with a bright, cartoon style. There’s a fantastic attention to detail in the alien and building designs, with some wonderful animations for both. Combined with great sound effects, music and VA, Startopia has a great deal of charm and character. It’s also very addictive, as you easily lose yourself for hours trying to create the perfect station.

Criticisms? Well, the combat element is a little basic, simply relying on greater numbers than any sort of strategy, and it’s just too easy to rush your opponent early before they can get established. The fact that there’s only one type of station map is probably the biggest issue, as your custom games will eventually grow rather repetitive when you settle upon a preferred station layout, and this harms long term replay value.

Overall, Startopia was addictive, quirky, amusing and full of charm, and was a lot of fun to play.


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